In response to a call from the Press Club of Southwest Florida in collaboration with the Collier County Public Library System nearly 30 interested aspiring writers and seasoned professionals attended a free forum on freelance writing and blogging the morning of December 8.
Audience reaction was positive. Overheard were such statements as “I got more out of this than I’d hoped for,” and “I feel inspired now.”
Panelists were Kelly Jane Farrell, Managing Editor of eBella Magazine; Jennifer Reed, Senior Writer for Gulfshore Life and Senior Editor of Gulfshore Business; Dave Osborn, Regional Features and Entertainment Editor of Naples Daily News; Robbie Spencer, Managing Editor of Florida Weekly and an NPC member. David Silverberg of the Press Club of Southwest Florida served as panel moderator. The four editors purchase content, while the three writers provide it.
Editors agreed that demand here is sufficient for new writers to find plenty of work with little competition. Osborn pointed out that good writers can keep busy and that there has never been a better time to be a freelancer. He sees them as assets to the community.
The three freelance writers on the panel echoed this perception. NPC member Marqueeta Curtis-Haynes said that blogging on the Internet is thriving. She added that proliferating websites—“every business needs to have one”—need content. Freelance writer Dayna Harpster told the audience that the local market is “quite robust. You’ll find great opportunities if you can write.” Glenn Miller, who quipped, “I’m not the band leader, for those of you old enough to remember him,” remarked that writers will find plenty of assignments, “but when you do get one, be sure to do a professional job so you’ll get asked again.” Spencer added that even though the current pool of freelancers is shallow, “no one will kick down your door. You have to be a self-starter, ready to show some of your good clips.”
All on the panel agreed that the budgets for freelance writers could be better, and the editors advised that a writer should never write for free.
“Start with small assignments at first; once you prove your worth you’ll get more,” said Spencer. Miller agreed: “It is better to negotiate in advance, cover all aspects so there are no misunderstandings.” Silverberg added that some of his experiences taught him to always know in advance such things as word count, deadline, payment (how much and, more important, when) and kill fee.
Curtis-Haynes added: “Know your value. If the assignment is really tough or you have a super tight deadline, don’t be afraid to charge more.” Reed suggested: “Budgets are locked in and fairly tight. Try to get a couple of large, sustainable gigs and fill in the income you need with lesser ones. The public relations market pays better,” she said, “and you can charge by the hour.” Today, that hourly rate hovers around $60.
“Always charge for your photos,” Harpster advised. “The ability to take photos adds value to your freelance articles.”
“In the digital world, video is the future,” Curtis-Haynes said. She went on to explain that to break in, “writers should get a basic website and write their own blogs. Write about your passions.” She added: “Instagram is a must.”
Silverberg fielded a number of questions from an engaged audience, many of whom stayed after the panel concluded to pick up business cards and ask further questions of specific panel members, making this NPC outreach to the community a resounding success.